Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Team That Won the Stanley Cup Without Playing For It - The 1895 Montreal Victorias

The Stanley Cup was donated by Lord Stanley of Preston in 1982 and was originally called the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup to be given to the top amateur club in Canada. The first era of the Stanley Cup from 1893 to 1914 was known as the Challenge Cup Era, as there was no playoff system to determine the holder of the cup.

Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup photo DominionHockeyChallengeCup.jpg
The Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup

The first team awarded the cup was the Montreal Hockey Club, also known as the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association, or Montreal AAA for short, based on the club being the champions of the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada over four other clubs, two also from Montreal (the Crystals and the Victorias) and one each from Ottawa and Quebec. They secured the AHAC tile on this date in 1893 with a 2-1 victory over the Crystals. That promoted the Montreal Hockey Club to a 7-1 record over Ottawa's 6-2 mark and the season title - and with it, the prestige of being the first team to possess what would come to be known as the Stanley Cup.

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A championship ring from the 1893 Montreal Hockey Club

Haviland Routh would lead Montreal AAA and the AHAC in scoring that season with 12 goals in seven games played, while Billy Barlow contributed 7 goals and George Lowe and Archie Hodgson 6 each. Tom Paton in goal led the league with a 2.3 goals against average, allowing 18 goals in the Montreal Hockey Club's eight games.

1893 Montreal AAA team photo 1893 Montreal AAA team.jpg
The original Stanley Cup holders, the 1893 Montreal Hockey Club

Things were more complicated the following season when four of the five clubs in the AHAC tied for first place with identical 5-3 records! There was no tiebreaker system in place at the time, so an agreement was made for a playoff to occur. First, Quebec dropped out of consideration and it was then determined that the Montreal Hockey Club would play an elimination game against the Montreal Victorias, with the winner to face the Ottawa Hockey Club simply because Ottawa was given special consideration because they were from out of town! The Montreal Hockey Club prevailed 3-2 over the Victorias and then defeated Ottawa 3-1 to retain the cup for another year.

1894 Montreal AAA team photo 1894 Montreal AAA team.jpg
The 1894 Montreal AAA club with the AHAC trophy
dwarfing the original Stanley Cup bowl

Herbert Collins was in goal for Montreal AAA that season and he too led the league with a 1.875 goals against average. Routh and Barlow led the club in scoring with 8 goals apiece, which was tied for third in the league.

The following season saw another unusual set of circumstances arise as the trustees of the cup were still finding their way when it came to the rules regarding possession of the cup, as the 1895 AHAC regular season champions were the Montreal Victorias with a record of 6-2, who expected to be awarded the cup as champions of the league of the current cup holders.

But not so fast.

Unusually, the trustees ruled that the Montreal Hockey Club would first have to defend the AHAC's rights to the cup against a challenge from the Queen's University Golden Gaels of the Ontario Hockey Association to determine if the cup remained with the AHAC.

In a game played on this date in 1895, the Montreal Hockey Club defeated Queen's University 5-1 in the first official challenge for the Stanley Cup in a game played at the Victoria Rink in Montreal thanks to goals by Clarence Mussen, Clarence McKerrow, Hodgson and a pair by Routh.

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The Victoria Rink

Thanks to Montreal's defeat of Queen's University, the cup remained with the AHAC, but not with the Montreal Hockey Club, as the Monreal Victorias were now holders of the Stanley Cup as the 1895 league title holders thanks to a playoff game they were not involved in!

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The 1895 Montreal Victorias pose with the Stanley Cup
won for them by the Montreal Hockey Club!

Today's featured jersey is a 1894-95 Montreal Victorias jersey. The Victorias represented the Scottish population of Montreal and wore burgundy sweaters with a "V" logo in various fonts during their early days. Like many clubs in the late 1800's the Victorias were named after Queen Victoria of England.

Montreal Victorias sweater

Today's video is a look at Lord Stanley, the origins of the cup and other related facts about the cup.

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